The Complete and Only College Essentials Checklist You’ll Ever Need

Did you know that there are about 20 million current college students in the United States? That’s a lot of people who are working on bettering themselves with a college education! Are you getting ready to become one of them?

Getting ready for college is exciting. This is a brand new journey for you, but are you ready for it? Do you have all of your college essentials in place?

It’s best to start planning far ahead of time, preferably over a year ahead of time. If you haven’t, that’s okay. We’re here with a brief college checklist that will help both last-minute packers and people who have been planning for ages.

Read on to learn more.

Do You Have Your Finances in Order? 

First, make sure that you have the money that you need in order to have a comfortable college experience. Many people start to drown under predatory student loans, and if you can avoid putting yourself into serious debt, you should.

If you can, work before you start school. If you’re still living at home without bills, this is the time to start saving money for college. It won’t be enough to carry you through, but it will provide a reliable buffer.

You should also apply for scholarships. There are scholarships available for people of all kinds, so apply wherever you can. It’s better to apply to too many scholarships and get rejected for most of them if it means that you’ll also get accepted for some.

Look into financial aid options wherever you can. You’re not just paying for classes; you’re also paying for housing, books, supplies, and confusing student fees.

Click to continue reading about finding scholarships and funding options.

Always Check for a Syllabus 

Before you start buying supplies for college, make sure that you look for syllabi. If you’re planning way in advance, this won’t be an option. If, however, you’re getting ready for next semester, your professors may already have lists of books and supplies on their online portal.

The professor’s syllabus will help you avoid buying anything unnecessary and wasting money. You only want to buy what you need.

If there’s no current syllabus, consider emailing the professor. Most professors understand that students want to prepare ahead of time, so even if they haven’t completed their lesson plans for the next semester, they may be able to give you a general idea of what you’re going to need.

Basic School Supplies

Remember that college is still school. There are a few basic items that all students are going to need regardless of their majors. You’ll likely have some of these things leftover from high school, so take an inventory first before you start buying.

Here are a few basics that most students will need.

Tech Gear

Especially in 2022, all students are going to need access to adequate tech gear. Keep in mind that some classes will be either hybrid classes or completely online, and that things may change throughout the semester depending on what’s going on in the world.

For most people, a laptop with a webcam is enough. Your school library may be able to provide you with a laptop if you don’t have the money for one that’s good enough for virtual learning.

If you have a desktop computer, it’s still helpful to have a laptop. It’s likely that there will be break periods between your classes, and if you don’t want to go back to your house, dorm, or apartment, you’ll want to be able to do work on the go.

Tablets are helpful for people in many majors, but they won’t be essential for everyone.

It’s also helpful to have a good pair of headphones, especially if you live with roommates or you’re working while you’re at school. You don’t want to disturb others while you’re attending virtual classes or watching videos.

Binders and Folders

You are never going to regret having too many places to store your papers. It’s best to have at least one binder and folder per class, even if you’re doing online learning.

Keeping things organized like this will help you keep your notes in order and avoid missing assignments because you lost them. “I lost my homework” is not a good excuse in college.

Bonus tip: keep plenty of writing tools with your binders. We recommend getting small pencil pouches that can stick to binder rings. Get several colors of pens to make note-taking a breeze.

A Planner

Even if you’ve never been the type to have a planner, you may want to get one when you go to college. Your schedule won’t be as straightforward as it was when you were in high school.

You’re going to be balancing classes at all hours of the day. Each will have its own test and assignment schedule and professors don’t work together to make sure that nothing clashes (aside from final exams).

You’re responsible for keeping track of all of these things.

Planners are great when you’re trying to remember due dates, balance your work schedule, plan leisure activities, and more. Once you get into the habit of keeping a planner, staying on track is far easier.

Books: When to Buy Them

Books are often the most dreaded purchases for college students. Why should you have to spend thousands of dollars on books when you’re already paying so much for school? Why do some professors charge students for unbound books that they’ve written?

Unfortunately, buying books is often unavoidable. That doesn’t mean that you can’t minimize your spending if you go about it the right way.

Don’t buy books as soon as you get your booklist. Keep in mind that many teachers who teach basic classes may have different required books than the ones listed by the school book store.

You want to check the syllabus rather than the book store list.

You may want to wait for the first day of class as long as the professor doesn’t intend on hitting the ground running with academic content on day one (and most professors don’t do this). Sometimes professors will mention that one book is recommended, but not required. They’ll also tell you if it’s necessary to have a new version of the book or if you can get by with an older version.

If the professor requires a new version of the book, make sure that you get that version. It’s often because the new version has different lessons or updated information. The book may also have a one-time-use online code that you’ll need for submitting assignments or taking lessons.

For People In Dorms or Apartments

If you’re living on your own for the first time in a dorm or apartment, you have even more college essentials to keep in mind. There are some things that you likely have never had to buy for yourself!

Here are a few basic dorm or apartment essentials for any college student.

Cooking: Check With Your School

In most college dorms (and some micro-apartments), there’s a communal kitchen, but no in-room kitchen. That means that if you want to cook, you have to leave your dorm.

With this in mind, you might have other options for cooking without a stove or oven. Make sure that you contact your school first to learn whether or not you’re allowed to have cooking devices.

Hot plates, Instant Pots, rice cookers, and air fryers are all great compact cooking devices that may or may not be allowed in your dorm. if you aren’t allowed to have them, don’t try to sneak them in any way. It’s not worth the risk.


You’re going to be spending a lot of time in your new place. Make it feel like home by adding some decorations.

If you’re in a dorm, you’re going to have to keep it simple. Stick with wall art, photos, and objects that are small enough to put on shelves. You aren’t going to have a lot of room.

In a full apartment, you have more space to work with. We recommend getting rugs and nice curtains to spruce the place up a bit while you’re on a budget. A few small accessories can make a huge difference when it comes to creating a comfortable and livable space.

Necessary Furniture

Again, in a dorm, you’re going to be limited. On the bright side, you’re also going to have furniture in the dorm before you get there. Most colleges provide beds and desks for their students so you don’t have to get these things on your own.

You can add other things as well, but you won’t have much room to work with. Consider a small dining table or somewhere comfortable to sit.

If you’re living in a large dorm or an apartment with roommates, split up responsibilities when it comes to getting furniture. Everyone should contribute to anything that’s going into communal spaces unless one person plans on taking everything with them later.

You’ll need couches and chairs, a TV stand or cabinet, a dining area, and basic comfort items. This is your opportunity to design your own space!

Snacks and a Mini-Fridge

Even if you can’t cook while you’re in your dorm, you should still have snacks on hand. You don’t want to have to get up and leave your space every time you get hungry.

We recommend stocking a mini-fridge with healthy snacks like fruits, vegetables, and hummus. You can also keep easy meals in here that you can heat up when you go into the kitchen.

You should also keep shelf-stable snacks like protein bars so you can keep your energy up while you’re on the go.

Linens and Bed Items

Even if your dorm or apartment comes with a bed, you’re still going to want to bring your own bed accessories. Don’t forget to bring pillowcases, duvets, duvet covers, and sheets. You’ll also need towels.

You should bring plenty of plush pillows and even a mattress topper. This will keep you far more comfortable when you’re in your new pace.

Plenty of Storage 

Never underestimate the amount of storage that you’re going to need. Remember, you don’t have as much space as you did before. You have to make your small space work for you.

We recommend getting bed raisers so you can store items under your bed. This is a great place for clothes, linens, and items that you don’t use often.

Take advantage of stackables and drawers that you can fit in your closet. Your closet will be small, so you should also consider getting hangers that can hang multiple items of clothing.

Organizational Tools 

Staying organized is key in college if you want to be the best student. Give yourself the tools to do it.

Keep paper organizers on your desk. This is great for separating notes, new assignments, and completed assignments so you can keep track of everything with ease.

Labeled drawers and cubbies will be lifesavers during your college career. Label everything, especially when you’re still adapting to your new situation.

Do You Have All of Your College Essentials?

Stock up on college essentials now while you still have time. You don’t have to spend a fortune on your supplies and dorm essentials, but make sure that you have everything that you need to live comfortably (within reason).

If you want to be a smart student, it’s best to over-prepare rather than under-prepare. Don’t go into your first day of college empty-handed!

For more helpful articles all about education and more, visit the rest of our site.


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